Summer Skate San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks enjoyed their fifth straight 100-point season, their fourth straight season atop the Pacific Division and their second straight season in the Western Conference finals. But again they came up short of their ultimate goal -- the Stanley Cup. So, they made a big impact this offseason in two separate deals with the Minnesota Wild, giving up Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley but adding Brent Burns and Martin Havlat to their already elite collection of talent, including Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.
LW Jamie McGinn
Last season: Minus -1.4 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 0.2 GVT
While the top spots in San Jose are taken, there's a real opportunity for a young talent such as 23-year-old McGinn to make an impact in a supporting role. Known for his controversial hit on Aaron Rome in last year's Western Conference finals, McGinn is a true competitor with a world of two-way talent. Ignore last year's sub-replacement level season and give only a little more consideration to his conservative VUKOTA projection. McGinn is ready to bust out, claim a spot on the third line and potentially become this year's Torrey Mitchell.
Trending Down: RW Ryane Clowe
Last season: 15.6 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 10.4 GVT
Last year Clowe hit career highs in almost every category with 24 goals, 38 assists, 62 points and plus-13 along with a gutsy 15-point effort in the postseason. Unfortunately our calculations suggest he has peaked, and the 29-year-old alternate captain will take a step back this season. His ongoing lack of discipline could force coach Todd McLellan to use him more sparingly, especially if he doesn't find the same chemistry with Havlat that he enjoyed with Heatley.
Name to know: D Nick Petrecki
The Sharks' 2007 first-round pick has had a slow and steady development curve during the last four seasons, two of which were spent at Boston College and the other two with Worcester in the American Hockey League.
Despite the fact his three goals and 14 points in 67 AHL games this past season are similar to the two goals and 14 points in 65 games in 2009-10, Petrecki certainly appeared to be on another level in 2010-11. He is not an offensive player. I don't think anyone within the industry would ever try to sell him as one, but his primary attributes -- a top-tier physical game and a solid defensive game -- are what will carry him into the NHL.
Petrecki struggled two years ago in his end when making the transition to the AHL , but he started to show better decision-making this year, although that area still needs some fine-tuning. His frame has come along nicely, as he weighs in at around 220 pounds and stands at 6-foot-4, and his mobility is decent considering his size. Petrecki can also be a moderate puck handler and make a good outlet pass. Expect him to push for NHL ice time this season, even if a job out of camp seems unlikely.
Summer Skate Anaheim Ducks
A fantastic record in one-goal games helped Anaheim secure its fifth postseason appearance since the lockout despite being absolutely dominated at even strength all year. Excellent performances by Ryan Getzlaf, Lubomir Visnovsky, Bobby Ryan, Jonas Hiller, the ageless Teemu Selanne and Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry covered up Anaheim's troubling lack of secondary talent. Still, there's at least one blueliner in line for a huge season, per VUKOTA's projections. And it's probably not the one you'd guess.
Trending Up: D Kurtis Foster
Last season: 1.5 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 6.1 GVT
The 6-foot-5 Foster toiled for years on Minnesota's third blue-line unit before finally breaking loose in Tampa Bay with a 42-point season in 2009-10. Unfortunately Foster couldn't find the same success in Edmonton last year and was traded to Anaheim for fellow giant Andy Sutton this offseason. Foster will turn 30 in the last year of his contract and has both the incentive and opportunity to play far more than his usual 17 minutes and put up another career season.
Trending Down: D Lubomir Visnovsky
Last Season: 19.2 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 11.5 GVT
At age 34, Visnovsky improved his scoring from 45 points to a career-high 68 while also improving his plus/minus by 28 goals and earning a spot on his second All-Star team.
Being pressed for ice time by sophomore Cam Fowler and reliable veterans Toni Lydman, Francois Beauchemin and Foster, the 35-year-old Slovakian is unlikely to finish in the top 10 in assists again this season.
Name to know: RW Kyle Palmieri
At the beginning of the 2009 draft season, you would have been hard-pressed to find many scouts who thought Palmieri was going to be a first-round pick. It also would have been hard to find anyone who thought Palmieri -- in his age-19 season -- could play a few games in the NHL while leading his AHL team in scoring and obtaining AHL All-Star honors. Not to mention being on the fast track to becoming a top-six player in the best league in the world.
But Palmieri is a skilled winger with above-average puck skills, good offensive awareness, a great shot and a simply tremendous two-way work ethic that helps him overcome the fact he doesn't have a blazing top gear for a player shorter than 6-foot. He's a good defensive forward who can be an asset on the penalty kill. Palmieri still needs to bulk up a little bit from where he was last year to really be effective at the top level, but expect him to be on the opening day roster.
Summer Skate Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings, who are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues for the NHL's longest Stanley Cup drought, finally shook off their historical tendency to collapse after 100-point seasons with their great 98-point effort last year. Some believe this season could be even better. Adding Mike Richards and Simon Gagne to their offensive mix could help Anze Kopitar finally play at a Hart level that is necessary for the Kings to get to the next level.
Trending Up: D Jack Johnson
Last season: 4.1 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 7.6 GVT
Kopitar isn't the only Kings star with the potential to bust loose. How about U.S. Olympic silver medalist Jack Johnson? In January, the Kings gave the 24-year-old a seven-year deal worth $30.5 million. With Drew Doughty's uncertain future, Johnson could be the blueliner who benefits most from Los Angeles' newfound firepower.
Trending Down: G Jonathan Quick
Last season: 20.1 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 8.3 GVT
For a cap hit of just $1.8 million, the Kings have one of the most productive goalies in the league in Quick. He finished sixth in shutouts and fifth in both goals-against average and quality start percentage last year. Unfortunately, the VUKOTA system doesn't project this to continue, and Quick will slide back closer to his 2009-10 levels.
Name to know: C Andrei Loktionov
Picked in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Loktionov has established himself as one of the top forward prospects in the league after two tremendous seasons in the AHL. He's exceptionally skilled with top-end puck skills, vision and overall hockey sense. Loktionov is also an above-average skater and has a great two-way work ethic, but his 5-foot-10 frame will always raise questions regarding his physicality and durability.
If he was on an average team, Loktionov could fit among the top six forwards this season, but the depth of the Kings may keep him out of that role, if not back in the minors waiting as the first injury call-up.
Summer Skate Dallas Stars
Despite a red-hot start, the Dallas Stars faded away and finished last in their division (but just four points out of second). How Dallas fares in the post-Brad Richards era will be determined by how well its key players perform in his absence, and how quickly the remaining players on the roster respond to new coach Glen Gulutzan.
Trending Up: D Mark Fistric
Last season: 0.1 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 1.9 GVT
The physically aggressive and defensively tough Fistric is a perfect fit for the Dallas blue line. Given the right opportunity, the 25-year-old is poised to bounce back from last season's disappointments and perform closer to his levels from 2009-10, when he led the team with a plus-27, miles ahead of everyone else.
Trending Down: LW Loui Eriksson
Last season: 16.4 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 13.4 GVT
Of everyone that will be affected by the departure of Richards, no player stands to lose more than his favorite target, Loui Eriksson, who set a career high of 73 points and led the team with a plus-10 last season. The talented Swede scored 36 goals in 2008-09, but his production has declined for two consecutive seasons. Eriksson scored 29 and 27 goals in the following two seasons, respectively, and that's a trend that may continue as more opportunity is given to the up-and-coming sniper Jamie Benn.
Name to know: D Philip Larsen
Philip Larsen isn't the flashiest name in the prospect world, as a fifth-round pick in 2008 who has never really had a huge statistical season. However, the blueliner is a skilled prospect and a smart two-way player. His lack of strength and injuries in recent seasons have contributed to keeping him out of the NHL, but Larsen can handle the puck well and is a solid skater with a good first step and overall mobility.
He likely isn't going to be the kind of name that stands out on a roster, but he can be a fine No. 4 or No. 5 defender for many seasons and could possibly be an NHL regular in 2011-12.
Summer Skate Phoenix Coyotes
Despite lacking big-name talent and having only one 20-goal scorer (Shane Doan), the Coyotes quietly snuck into the postseason for the second consecutive season. Without star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov this year, Phoenix is in danger of sliding back into obscurity if it doesn't get strong performances from many elder stars, such as Doan, Ray Whitney and Daymond Langkow. Phoenix also needs continued improvement from its younger talent, such as Keith Yandle, Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker.
Trending Up: G Jason LaBarbera
Last season: minus-0.9 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 3.2 GVT
After three truly dominant AHL seasons, LaBarbera finally got his NHL opportunity at age 28 with the Los Angeles Kings in 2007-08. Unfortunately, he has bounced around in various backup roles since then, including his great .928 season in Phoenix two years ago. With Bryzgalov now a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, LaBarbera must compete with only Mike Smith and Curtis McElhinney and should finally get another shot at the top spot. If he beats out Smith and McElhinney, he could have a monster season.
Trending Down: C Lauri Korpikoski
Last season: 8.4 GVT | VUKOTA projection: 4.7 GVT
At 24 years old, Korpiski, a 2004 first-round pick by the New York Rangers, improved from 11 points and minus-10 to 40 points and plus-17. But a closer look at the Finn's numbers shows how large a role luck played in his tremendous performance. Korpikoski's shooting percentage vaulted from 7.4 percent to 18.4 percent, and he enjoyed the second-highest PDO (on-ice team shooting percentage plus save percentage) in the league, both of which have a strong tendency to regress to the mean. You should expect him to slip back in the coming season.
Name to know: LW Mikkel Boedker
Boedker has been a highly touted prospect in the Phoenix organization for a few years after being selected eighth overall in 2008. He has bounced up and down between the NHL and AHL the past two seasons, as the Coyotes waited for Boedker to take that next step. He took that step this past season and should be ready for a full-time NHL job in 2011-12. NHL sources who saw Boedker play for San Antonio described his performance as nothing short of dominant, as he scored 12 goals and 34 points in 36 games.
Boedker is a top-tier skater with a fluid stride, a good first step and a brilliant top gear. He can handle the puck and excels as a distributor, although NHL sources believe he should use his shot more, as it is truly a plus weapon. His main knocks have always been his physical and defensive games, but he improved both of those this past season.
He's on the smaller side at 5-foot-11, but his strength progression has been noteworthy. On a team that certainly needs forwards with scoring punch, Boedker should get the opportunity to succeed this season in an offensive role.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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